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interview at a pharma company

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Kevin: how HR checks salary ?

Postby Derek McPhee » Sat Apr 29, 2006 9:37 am

Most HR depts will have a fairly good idea about the salary ranges for different positions to keep the company competitive in the hiring arena. If they have any doubts about a figure that looks too good to be true they will ask for a copy of a pay stub.
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interview at a pharma company

Postby RV » Sat Apr 29, 2006 12:43 pm

thanks everybody for your suggestions and support.

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interview at a pharma company

Postby Dave Jensen » Sun Apr 30, 2006 3:46 am

Val asks, "Can you please elaborate on how HR people [check salaries] ? From your point of view of a hiring manager?"

Val, as a recruiter, I've seen many salaries "debunked," via the H/R process. They simply call their peers in the other organization and ask what the person was being paid. It is an unspoken rule that the H/R people will always cooperate with each other. Or, as DJM suggests, they ask for a pay stub. You can be at work for four or five weeks and have them call you into the office to ask about discrepancies . . .

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interview at a pharma company

Postby Kevin Foley » Tue May 02, 2006 12:46 pm

Derek, we'll just have to agree to disagree. Although I have spend my career in biotech (75-2000 employee companies), I have received job offers from big pharmas, and have successfully renegotiated offer letters in almost every case.

In principle everything is negotiable (obviously within reason), even salary, no matter what the initial offer letter says. Of course, how negotiable depends on the specifics of the position in question. Obviously, a CEO will have a great deal of flexibility (one only has to read the news paper to see how much!), while an entry level research associate with a BS will have much less. If you are offered $50K, they are not going to go to $100K, but they might go to $55K (and maybe even $60K), depending on the situation.

But part of the problem is that the overwhelming majority (90%+) of job candidates don't know how to negotiate and are even unwilling to try. Which only makes HR's job that so much easier. They come up with a number that is based on very peripheral analysis, which is why it behooves you to do your own analysis and come up with a number that you think you are really worth.

As far as hiring managers not caring about your salary, this is why the best approach is not to negotiate with HR directly, but enlist the hiring manager on your side and have him/her negotiate with HR for you. If the hiring manager agrees with your request (you having explained to him/her why you think it is justified), there is a much better chance that you’ll get it. I don't know how many times I've seen a hiring manager convince HR to pay more than they want for a candidate because the hiring manager really likes the candidate and doesn’t want to search for another candidate only to save a few $1000.

Finally, a company may not be willing to raise your salary offer, but may be willing to adjust other parts of the offer (stock options, hiring bonus, I’ve even heard of vacation days being negotiated). Just make sure that your negotiating position is based on what you are actually bringing to the company, and doesn’t show you are clueless about what you are worth in the marketplace.

The trick is to make it a win-win situation (as in any negotiation). You won’t get everything you ask for, but a partial victory makes both sides feel good. Obviously, once you are hired, it is too late to negotiate.

Personally, if someone doesn’t negotiate a job offer, my respect for them drops a notch. Similarly, you can also loose respect by asking for way too much.

Cheers,
Kevin
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Kevin: how HR checks salary ?

Postby Kevin Foley » Tue May 02, 2006 12:52 pm

HR can check your previous salary by:
1) Calling a HR contact in your former company (might open them up to being sued, but it happens);
2) Asking for a copy of your pay stub (if you refuse, they'll assume you were lying). As was mentioned, they may only do this after you are on the job. Any they may very well fire you if they catch you lying.
3) If you use "I have another job offer" in your negotiations, they can ask you for a copy of your offer letter (also problematic if you refuse), or contact someone in that company to confirm that you did receive an offer.

Cheers,
Kevin
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interview at a pharma company

Postby Derek McPhee » Tue May 02, 2006 10:22 pm

Hi Kevin:

Can't see the disagreement however hard I try. Looks like an "I say tomato, you say...". I don't dispute all things are negotiable, even salary (I specifically mentioned a range of salaries for a position). We both agree periferal benefits (stock options, hiring bonus, vacations, etc) are all negotiable and BTW a good place to get some extra things that will contribute to employee happiness. I also have no problem with the hiring manager pushing for your hire (and indeed this will happen if he/she wants you bad enough, as I also said), but this person is in a conflict of interest here regardless of company size (and that was one of my points). He can push to help candidate A knowing that ultimately the salary of employees A...Z comes out of his budget and I felt (and feel) that there is a limit to how much engaging a hiring manager in your support is going to carry a negotiation (does he/she really want to mess with HR? - are you really worth that much to the company? - does your manager want to skew the salary structure of his/her group?). Do your own negotiating (but by all means do it).

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Kevin: how HR checks salary ?

Postby Val » Wed May 03, 2006 12:06 am

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interview at a pharma company

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed May 03, 2006 4:27 am

Kevin stated, "Personally, if someone doesn’t negotiate a job offer, my respect for them drops a notch. Similarly, you can also loose respect by asking for way too much."

Personally, I have found in working with hundreds of companies over 20 years that there are two types of firms, and it doesn't matter whether it is large or small. This is just a company culture issue . . . Some are "first offer, best offer" firms and you just can't get ANYWHERE with them on a "negotiation," and in fact you can lose the offer if you try and play "hardball". The other type, obviously the one that Kevin works for fits this mold, is the "negotiation is standard practice" type of employer. There, you can even disappoint the hiring manager by not asking for more (thank you Kevin!).

I'd say that even in the "first offer best offer" companies, it pays to know how to negotiate because you may be able to land an extra week of vacation, a $3,000 hiring bonus to offset the cost of living increase, etc. I'm going to update our archive in the Science Careers articles section about this topic soon . . .

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Kevin: how HR checks salary ?

Postby Kevin Foley » Wed May 03, 2006 8:40 pm

Val,

Actually, I may be wrong about it being illegal for your former employer to give out your salary, but it may be inadvisable for them to do so, since it opens them to being sued (in our society, obviously you can be sued for anything).

I think most companies are only willing to confirm your dates of employment and title, and will not give any further information about you as a matter of policy.

For the same reason, some of the companies I've worked for have had a specific policy against hiring managers providing references for former employers. If I were to say something negative about a former employee, and it got back to them, they could sue my employer. Obviously a problem if you need a reference from your ex-boss!

It is common practice when being hired to sign a document giving your new employer permission to conduct a background check (which might include your previous salary). I don’t think they legally need it, but it presumably protects them from being sued.

But maybe someone with more specific HR knowledge can address this. Obviously, I'm not a HR person or employment lawyer.

Cheers,
Kevin
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first offer/best offer at pharmas

Postby Verona » Tue May 16, 2006 9:15 am

I was intrigued by the first-offer/best offer statement and would love an accompanying article by Dave Jensen. I am recently employed at a market research firm; although it is not my true calling (however it does pay the bills). Fortunately, I recently interviewed at a pharma (yippie, crossing my fingers and holding my breathe). Are all large pharmas first-offer/best-offerers or should I try to negotiate salary? If not salary (or if not just salary), is there any vacation time or stock option wiggle room? Pharmas seems rather "set in stone" and I wouldn't want to loose my chance at this opportunity by asking form more money. Should I try to ask for something more if they want me there or just accept (as I will if offered).

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